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Pleasure In Return
Special Post: Album Notes for "Pleasure in Return" by Special What, project of Pete Angevine and Bryan Rogers
A new writing modality for me: album liner notes. In publishing jargon it might be known as romance copy on the book jacket, or an introductory essay for archival work. But wow, the kismet of writing an album intro has hit me with the force of an elbow in the universe, because I was asked not just once, but TWICE to write album liner notes for TWO DIFFERENT DUOS. One, and then the other. And I have to say, it was a total joy to do this.
Now, I am extremely fond of both duos, and wouldn’t have done this otherwise. SO let me tell you with my full throat that you should seek out “Pleasure in Return” by Special What. Available on Bandcamp as of November 10, 2023.
KANNOU (観桜）OR CHERRY VIEWING.
I recently inherited a high quality pair of powered speakers from a friend after relying on a basic pair of small computer speakers for years. After toiling somewhat with connecting them to a pre-amp, I was excited to finally play music from a system “boasting sound quality consistent with speakers two or three times its price” (which is how Wharfedale describes its wares). As they were a gift, I translate this valuation to the friendship through which I'd become a beneficiary.
The first thing I play on these speakers is the album in your possession Pleasure in Return, by Special What. As a musical assemblage by Pete Angevine and Bryan Rogers, I know the performance and the recording includes several friends. I’m listening to an early version of this sound, and the privilege of an advance copy is so precious I might pay twice or three times for it elsewhere.
I inaugurate the undervalued speakers with this album, and am stunned by the immediate sensation I experience upon listening—not an emotion but a sense. The scent of cherrywood. The scent permeates my mind immediately, inexcorably. I inhale alongside the music and smell the unmistakable perfume of raw wood inside a tree. I keep the sensation in my aspirations while I listen to the entire session.
One would be forgiven for forgetting the age of a tree. Unless it becomes lumber, unless it is allowed to see old age, unless it is farmed for fruit, and shy of environmental concern, we do not, by necessity, think of the age of a tree. They can be left unobserved.
Prunus avium, the cherry tree, is cultivated in many senses of the word. It is cultivated like a high social symbol in Asia and Africa. It is also a cultivar throughout the world. In America its cultural status is less appropriate. We value its sweet byproducts—dark and light eyes, honey, a decoration. The diversity of cherries can be boiled down to a singular facsimile, unmistakable to each region of our worship. Saccharine pies, candies, syrups. Elsewhere, a salty paste, a tart liquor. An obscenity. Botanists suggest the tree benefits from synthetic care. It rarely escapes the farm, and hardly naturalizes in landscape. To think of its bark without its bite, one might picture furniture, a home. The strength of its lumber suggests a wildness, a masculine exotic belying all its feminine wile.
Its wood evokes a scent. Imagine the scent of a cherry tree in a natural landscape. Imagine, in its indigeneity, the evocation of a sweat and the slake trapped in its leaf. We may never taste anything. It may more closely resemble a plum. It does in my mind. It may be febrile and played with. Scent relies on imagination for our lack of focused language to describe what happens in the breath, despite our enthusiasm for describing what happens on the tongue. We hesitate to describe music for the same reasons that we wait to describe a perfume. Would that we waited a century. That may be where we meet the Special What.
The tree that fell without a person to watch it, is as much the story of the tree that grew forever. Its fruit has a season and the amber scent grows in tandem with a biosphere that invites butterflies, and not horses. It grows to a hundred. It grows forever. To listen to the light cast through its flower may be the leisurely athleticism of a free pair of instruments plumbing soft ideas between breaths. It is to listen to the winds that meet between a stone fruit, and a tympanic hand.
This is the music of the marrow and skin of a wood we would rather picture than manipulate. One can watch a tree grow or fall, become fruit, tender, shelter, lumber. Listen for the face and the thumb, the bell and the smoke, the flesh and the stone, a sequence of bows and gasps, to forgo memory of the tree and meet the purity of its existence.
…and I’ll be sure to post leads to the second album liner I wrote, when that becomes available, too.